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Elias Khoury’s most recent novel propels us into a fantastic universe of skewed reality that leaves us breathless to the last page. We follow the path of a young man, Yalo, who is growing up like a stray dog on the streets of Beirut during the long years of the Lebanese civil war. Living with his mother, who “lost her face in the mirror,” he falls in with a dangerous gang whose violent escapades he treats as a game. The game becomes a frightening reality, however, when Yalo is accused of rape and imprisoned. He is forced to confess to crimes of which he has no recollection. As he writes, and rewrites, he begins to grasp his family’s past and recall all that his psyche has buried, and the true Yalo begins to emerge.

Elias Khoury is the author of twelve novels, four volumes of literary criticism, and three plays. Editor of the cultural pages of Beirut’s An-Nahar , Khoury also is a global distinguished professor at New York University. Gate of the Sun was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year in 2006. Peter Theroux translated Abdelrahman Munif's Cities of Salt, Naguib Mahfouz's Children of the Alley , and Alia Mamdouh’s A Novel of Baghdad. He has lived and traveled throughout the Middle East and is currently based in Washington, DC.

317 pages, Hardcover

Published January 1, 2008

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About the author

Elias Khoury

29 books294 followers
Elias Khoury (Arabic: إلياس خوري) is a Lebanese novelist, playwright and critic. He has published ten novels, which have been translated into several foreign languages, as well as several works of literary criticism. He has also written three plays.
He currently serves as editor of Al-Mulhaq, the weekly cultural supplement of the Lebanese daily newspaper Al-Nahar, and is a prominent public intellectual.
He is Professor of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University.

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5 stars
89 (18%)
4 stars
154 (32%)
3 stars
136 (28%)
2 stars
63 (13%)
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39 (8%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 79 reviews
Profile Image for Jim Fonseca.
1,101 reviews7,199 followers
June 25, 2021
{Edited and pictures added 6/25/21}

A story from Beirut’s civil war, more-or-less on-going since the 1980’s. The book focuses on one young man who represents the diversity of the country: he’s of Arab ancestry but a Maronite Christian whose grandfather was a Kurd.


The young man fights in one of the wars, migrates to Paris and then returns and gets a job as a night watchman over a large estate. The estate includes a lover’s lane where he robs men and rapes women who visit the isolated area.

Eventually arrested and tortured, he is forced to repeatedly write his confession to his real crimes and other ones the authorities want to pin on him. During his torture he becomes a writer and seems to be becoming schizophrenic, elaborating on, and eventually inventing a past even more complex than his real past. A lot of the story gives vivid details of his tortures that are hard to stomach.

Like another of the author’s books, White Masks, this is a tale of the tragic toll of war upon humanity and how past atrocities breed future ones: the grandfather’s eccentricities that shaped this youth’s upbringing can be traced back to his grandfather being an orphan from massacres almost a century ago.

And so it goes.


The author was born in 1948 into a Greek Orthodox middle-class family in a predominantly Christian neighborhood of Beirut. His best-known and most highly rated work is Gate of the Sun, a novel about the lives of Palestinians living in refugee camps. The author is a journalist and editor who is a “professional migrant” as a professor who has taught at a dozen universities in Lebanon, the USA, Britain, Germany, France and Switzerland.

Top photo of the result of a car bombing in Beirut in 1986 from chicagotribune.com
The author from arabicfiction.org
Profile Image for kaire.
248 reviews814 followers
December 1, 2014
قال مره العظيم
غسان كنفاني
بكتابه فارس فارس
وهو مجموعه مقالات نقديه
مسليه ومفيده وأنصح به بشده
قرأته ثلاث مرات ودائما ما
أعود إليه كمرجع
أن هناك كتب يجب أن تقتنيها وتقتني معها عصا
لماذا ؟
لمعاقبه نفسك وضربها بعد قراءه الكتاب
جزاءا ً وفاقا ً لما فعلته بنفسك
وهذه الروايه من الروايات التي
يجب أن أضرب نفسي بعدها
عقابا ً لما جنته يداي
مش مهضوم ومش مفهوم ومش عارف ليش بيكتب روايه ؟
Profile Image for Elena Sala.
488 reviews80 followers
July 6, 2023
Yalo is NOT a likeable character. He is young, coarse, rather dim-witted. Also he is a thug, a thief, a rapist. YALO (first published in Beirut in 2002, translated from the Arabic by Peter Theroux and published in 2008) narrates his story, from his perspective.

At the outset, he is a prisoner who is being held in a cell somewhere in Lebanon. He is accused of being a terrorist. The interrogator wants a confession from him, and since he is not satisfied with the responses he obtains from Yalo, he resorts to torture. Feral cats thrust on his genitals, chairs, bottles shoved in his rectum, described in abundant detail, are tried on Yalo in order to determine that Yalo was guilty of "planting explosives and killing innocent people".

Yalo is made to write his life story and his survival depends on it. He needs to write a story which will satisfy his torturer's expectations: a written confesion of his deeds as a terrorist. YALO is composed of several successive narratives, different versions of his life story, which sometimes complement and sometimes contradict one another. Gradually we learn that his father abandoned him and his mother and that he grew up among Beirut’s minority population in a house ruled by his choleric grandfather. Without much reflection, when he was a teenager, he joined the army for a time, then he fled after stealing money and escaped to Paris. He returned to Beirut thanks to a wealthy attorney and arms dealer who hired him as a guard at his lavish Beirut villa, where apart from his job, he found time to have sex with his employer's wife, and indulge in some entertaining rape and violence with people he felt were trespassers.

Yalo was not a terrorist. He was an innocent victim of false allegations, misunderstandings and torture. He is guilty, though, of so many other violent acts but he is so dull that he doesn't see them as such. For him, they are like well- meaning, romantic exploits. Yalo is unable to understand the enormity of his crimes.

YALO is a brilliant, complex, violent novel about the dehumanizing effects of war. It is a terrifying novel of alienation, civil war, estrangement and life in Beirut which some readers may find too brutal.
Profile Image for Whitaker.
294 reviews510 followers
December 17, 2014
Finishing this book, in which torture plays a prominent role, at the same time as the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on the use of torture by the CIA seemed serendipitous—at least to the extent of compelling me to write a review. It goes without saying that if you are at all squeamish, if depictions of a cat clawing apart a man’s genitals or a broken bottle being shoved up said man’s rectum make your stomach churn, then you might prefer to read something else.

Still, those should not be reasons to avoid this book. The use of torture is not gratuitous. Nor is its stomach churning effects simply used to display the brutality of the police system in Lebanon. The torture and its effects on Yalo, other than being simply themselves, are also the anthropomorphic representations of the civil war on Lebanon and Beirut.

Identity is at the heart of the fractured narrative, and the identity of the protagonist and of many others in this novel, are as equally fractured as the narrative. And, which I think is Khoury’s point, as is Lebanese society. Yalo’s endless revisiting of his broken past as forced confession and as a means of reconstructing a broken identity must reflect as well, surely, the attempts to reconstruct Lebanese society, to give it a new meaning and a new ending.

It all calls to mind Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism , the use of shock by torture or other means to tear down and reconstruct a person or a society. Sadly, as we have not yet seemed to have learnt, it is far easier to destroy than it is to create. And, of course, given what we have learnt of the malleability of the brain and of our memories, in the face of excruciating pain, what we know breaks down to the point that we will imagine anything, say anything, believe anything, if it will just make the pain stop. Which makes me wonder, if your torture has been successful, if it has destroyed a person’s personality (i.e., driven him mad), what makes you think you can believe anything that he says is real and not simply insanity?
Profile Image for DubaiReader.
782 reviews28 followers
February 9, 2017
I cannot believe I am still reading this book! (Nearly a month later).
It churns and churns, repeating itself endlessly, maybe adding a little more detail with each telling.
And the torture, I hate reading about torture; maybe I have my head in the sand but it distresses me that people can be so cruel to each other.
Mind you, the main character isn't much better, he may be a product of the Lebanese Civil War, but he's a nasty piece of work too - a rapist who doesn't even realise that what he's doing is rape.

What I'm finding truly fascinating is that, by chance, I have two different translations and I keep swapping between the two. Humphrey Davis's version is very much more poetic, it has more of an Arabic feel to it, while Peter Theroux seems to write for a more Western audience, less flowery but sometimes too direct. I'd struggle to say which version I prefer and I'm definitely spending too much time comparing them.

Just under 100 pages to go and I guess I'm going to struggle through to the end now. The book group has been and gone, so I'm just doing this for myself(?!). I need to know how Yalo will end up, though I can't say I really care if he meets a grisly end.......

16th December and I finally finished. It didn't get any better, although someone from the book group promised me it would. If Elias Khoury's intention was to highlight the fate of the lost children of a generation, then I'm sure he would have benefited from taking the chance to spend more time with his characters actually on the streets. It seems to me that this endless repetition of Yalo's story just wastes the opportunity of having someone concentrate on your book.
I'm assured that Khoury's book 'Gate of the Sun' is a wonderful read, but I think it'll be a while before I come back for more of this.
2 starts just because I finished.
Profile Image for Ronald Morton.
408 reviews159 followers
February 24, 2016
This book is written in shadows pierced by a flashlight beam, dancing with illuminated colors. The text clogs your nostrils with the stench of pine sap, and incense, and blood and excrement. The words coat your tongue with the tastes of cuttlefish ink and sanctified wine clotted with blood and fills your throat until you choke.

This book is written in shadows pierced by a flashlight beam, but the flashlight is taken away and the hood is draped over your head and tightened around your neck. It straddles the line where laughter turns to tears and the two become indistinguishable. It is a meditation on memory and forgetting and the ephemeral spaces between waking and sleep.

This book is written in shadows pierced by a flashlight beam. It yearns for the light to be turned off, and for the empty spaces and gaps to be filled. This is a book drenched in darkness yearning for illumination.
Profile Image for Jen.
154 reviews79 followers
April 25, 2016
This is beautifully written - poetic and nuanced, I can't help but be impressed by the style and the obvious skill of the translator.

I am often wooed by a book on the strength of the language alone. Not here though - I found the story to be tedious and it left me with very little sense of the protagonist (or other characters). I'm sure this is intentional, as it plays to the overt theme of 'versions of truth' and to the deep chaos that defines Yalo. But it didn't work for me.

I was also hoping to get a fuller perspective of the Lebanese civil war, but was equally disappointed in this. Again, a reflection, I'm sure, of the themes of the book and the deliberate obliqueness of the story.

So, while I'm sure that Khoury is successful in achieving what he set out to write, I didn't take as much from it as I'd hoped.

Profile Image for Jeruen.
490 reviews
April 20, 2012
An edited version of this article was first published as Book Review: Yalo by Elias Khoury on Blogcritics.org.

A serial rapist meets a torturing interrogator in wartime Lebanon. Yet he soon realizes that the ultimate source of pain is his own head, which can cause a much greater suffering than the devices that his prisoners used to inflict pain on him. This is a novel that is heavy on passion, blood, and violence. Definitely not for the squeamish reader.

At the outset, we are introduced to Daniel, but more fondly known as Yalo. We soon learn that he is a prisoner, he was arrested not so long ago, and he is being held in a cell somewhere in Lebanon. The interrogators are trying to fish out a confession from him, and since he wouldn't cough up, they resort to torture. Torture in this case involves feral cats, chairs, bottles shoved in one's rectum, and even psychological torture, as reflected in the episodes when Yalo is made to write his life story, as his "survival" depends on it. Without revealing how this book ends, I should say that this is a tragedy.

So, why would one want to read this novel? Well, I think the experience of reading this novel should be less about wanting to know what happens in the end (I already told you above, this is a tragedy), but more about what happens as we head to the end. The journey of reading this book is an end in itself. How?

First, this novel provides a great way to know how the mind deals with pain. There is a great difference between the mental state of Yalo when we first met him at the outset, and at the dual-bipolar Yalo that we encounter at the end of the novel. This difference is reflected in the way the narrative is structured: at the outset, an unknown third-person is narrating Yalo's story. But near the end, Daniel becomes Yalo's alter ego and narrates the story as if he is looking at Yalo (himself) from the outside. In other words, Yalo to some degree, has an out-of-body experience.

Additionally, this novel also gives a great description on the psychology of torture. The story happens within a short period of time: Yalo isn't incarcerated in that Lebanese prison for years. However, due to the things that were done to him (which I won't elaborate), the notion of time for Yalo is blurred, making what for us is an hour seem like an eternity. This novel does a good job in providing a window to the mind of the tormented, and leaves the reader deep in thought, wondering why some humans can be capable of doing these horrendous things to other humans.

A third reason why I think this was a good book was its way of handling the truth. Yalo is an unreliable narrator, or at least, the interrogators would like him (and by extension, the reader) to think. Yalo is given the task of writing his life story, which will be in essence a written confession with respect to the crimes that the interrogators want to charge him with. The interrogators tell him that "they know everything". Yes, there is a contradiction: if they know everything, then why would they want Yalo to still write it for them? However, Yalo writes his story, in fear of further torture, and every time, the interrogators tell him to rewrite it, as he "left some details". So Yalo resorts to imagination and invention. This plot device makes it really hard for the reader to determine which is real and which is fictional. To some degree, I believe that this is one way of saying that there are things in which we really cannot know what the truth is. Truth is relative, and somehow, people have the ability to make things true, at least in their heads, if they really want it to.

One final word, regarding this novel's scope. This novel isn't your broad-and-shallow type of novel: the story isn't developed by the addition of new events as time moves forward. Instead, this novel is narrow-yet-dense. As I mentioned earlier, time doesn't move forward too much here. Instead, the past is constantly dug up, memories are retrieved, confessions are elicited, and we get to know what happened sometime in the past with respect to a character page after page of this amazing narrative.

By the comments that I have given above, it is obvious that I liked this book. I cannot think of a negative aspect about this book, with the sole exception that the topic isn't really my main interest. As much as I liked the way the novel is structured, and as much as I like the way the narrative was set up, the topic just didn't pique my interest as much as I wanted it to. Hence I am giving it 4 out of 5 stars. That being said, I am open to the idea of reading more books by Elias Khoury and by Middle Eastern writers in general.

See my other book reviews here.
Profile Image for Rida Hariri.
106 reviews333 followers
July 23, 2016

قال لشيرين إنّه يحبها لأنّه رأى النجوم. هذا الشعور بالنجوم التي تتفتّح مثل العيون في جسد اللّيل, لم يشعر به من جديد إلّا مع شيرين, هناك في بيته الصغير أسفل الفيلا, أمّا مع الأخريات, نساء الحرج أو المدام أو بنات الحرب, فلا.
"أحبّك من أجل النجوم", قال لها في المطعم, لكنها لم تفهم شيئًا.”
"إنه الحب يا سيدنا" أراد يالو أن يقول للمحقق.
"الحب بذل يا سيدنا" أراد أن يقول.
"الحب مثل الصليب يا سيدنا", أراد أن يقول.
نعم يا سيدي، لقد بدأ يالو حياته عندما اكتشف الحب لكن هذا الحب أيضا
كان سبب موته..

هذه الرواية هي بالدرجة الأولى عن استحالة وفقدان المقدرة على الحب, هذه الثيمة المتكررة في روايات الياس خوري اضافة لثيمة آخرى وهي انهيار الرجل العاشق أمام المرأة التي يحبها والاحساس الدائم باستحالة حبّها له أو بعدم فهمها لحبه.. ظهرت ملامحه في مجمع الاسرار مع ابراهيم نصّار ونورما التي نسيت عائلتها وظهرت بشكل واضح مع خليل وشمس في باب الشمس ثم هنا مع يالو وشيرين رعد ولاحقًا وبشكل أقل -لا أعرف ان كانت كلمة أقل درامية تصّح هنا- في كأنها نائمة مع ميليا التي لم تفهم يومًا حب زوجها منصور لها وصولًا الى كريم في سينالكول.
رجال الياس خوري ضعاف دائمًا أمام المرأة..
" في القامشلي شمال سوريا، بعد أن ذبح أهله السريان في عين ورد
التي طفح الجوري الأحمر على نبعها الذي غرق بالدم هناك حيث هام الأطفال، حتى أصدر الملا
مصطفى توصية بتبنيهم، وتسميتهم من جديد. "
في القامشلي استرد جدي اسمه الاصلي لكنه فقد هيوته، لانه صار كرديا"
في نظر الناس وشعر بالغربة"
"كأنّ روحًا غريبة دخلت في جسده وركبته اللغة السريانية, وصار مهووسًا بجمع أسماء القرى اللبنانية والسورية والفلسطينية التي تبدأ بكلمة كفر... ويقول أن الهواء يتكلم اللغة السريانية
هذه الرواية في المقام الثاني عن الهوية والذاكرة واللغة..
يقول الياس أنه لكي يكتب هذه الرواية درس السريانية وهذاالأمر واضح جدًا في الرواية.

ما أحبّه في الياس خوري هي هذه المقدرة اللامتناهية على القصّ وعلى سرد الحكايات وربطها ببعضها البعض والخروج من واحدة للدخول في آخرى, كما ألف ليلة وليلة التي أقرأها الآن أيضًا..أخبرني صديقي أنه سمع حين كان في احدى المكتبات في الحمرا, الموظف يتحدث عن الياس الذي "لا يفعل شيء" سوى الذهاب والجلوس في "جنينة" الصنايع للاستماع الى حكايا وقصص الناس.
رغم احساسي بالتطويل في بعض الأقسام خاصة في القسم الأول وإحساسي بالبعد عن هذه الرواية لسبب لا أعرفه, لكن الياس خوري كان وفيًا لأسلوبه, الياس خوري ولد في الحرب وسيموت في الحرب ولن تنتهي من رواياته.
هذه الرواية في المقام الثالث عن الحرب والتي هي ربما المسبب الحقيقي والمستتر لكل ما حصل وسيحصل ولاستحالة الحب..
Profile Image for Charbel.
149 reviews33 followers
December 14, 2013
Daniel, nicknamed Yalo, is accused of rape, robbery and just about anything else you can think of. He is tortured until confession and is then ordered to write down his life story. He revisits several moments of his life, dealing with subjects such love, adultery, pedophilia, rape, treason, abandonment, heritage and just about anything else you can think of. It is dark, depressing, sad, and a total waste of time.

The characters in the book are simplistic, excpet for Yalo himself, who is so complex that no logical mortal mind can decipher wether he is guilty or not! The description was unattractive, and sometimes even nauseating. The plot was stale and repetitive, making the reader put down the book every 25 pages.

My biggest issue, however, was with the denouement. The book begins in the interrogation room, and proceeds to reveal what actually happened in the past, except for the fact that it does not (ouch!), and only manages to confuse the reader. Had it been approached properly, such a writing style would have been compelling, but instead, it just feels like you're reading the same thing over and over and over again with small insignificant details added each time.

Would I have felt differently about it if I had read it in Arabic?
I doubt it, for the translation was probably the only decent aspect of the book (first time ever, I know!).

In conclusion, I did not like it and I would not recommend it.
Profile Image for Ibrahim.
146 reviews76 followers
June 22, 2013

ثلاثة أرباع هذهِ الرواية جنسيّة
تثير الشهوة بشكل أو بآخر، -طبعاً أكيد إشي بيخزي الواحد يكون بيبحث عن المعرفة أو شيء جديد في رواية ويخيب أمله وظنّه ويجد الرواية جنسية-
يعني شخص مريض نفسيّاً، عانى ما عاناه، لاقى ما لاقاه، ماذا سيصدر عنه سوى تصرفات مريضة؟

والحق يقال: هذه الرواية فيها مجهود كبير من الأستاذ إلياس خوري، مجهود اللغة المتماسكة القويّة، والتوصيفات والإستعارات المعبّرة، فيها من بساطة اللغة الكثير، بعض الكلمات في الرواية تجعلنا نتوقّف لحظة عندها، ونفكّر
والحق يقال أيضاً، هناك الكثير مما قيل عن الحبّ في هذهِ الرواية ما يصِف واقعنا، ويصف حالتنا النفسيّة

لا أنصح بقراءة هذه الرواية
Profile Image for Nabil مملوك.
Author 3 books54 followers
June 4, 2022
رواية جسّدت باحتراف مآسي السجون وفساد الأجهزة الأمنية
ومعاناة السجين البريء من خطايا الآخرين
تواتر اسم البطل كان اشارة مهمة من الكاتب على حصر كل الأحداث بالشخصيّة المركزيّة يالو وهذا ان دل على شيء يدل على رغبة الكاتب باستبدال صوت الشخصية الروائية بصوت الرواي العليم الناقل والمحايد لا المصاحب والمتدخل
أي نحن أمام عملية تعويض حرمان الشخصية من التعبير بتعويمها من قبل الرواي العليم
لكن تواتر سرد الأحداث كقصة الكوهنو وقصص يالو الجنسية أحدث نوعا من الرتابة والجمود
لكنه ولد في ذات الوقت
تشويقًا وإن كان محدود الحدّة
رواية جيّدة لكاتب يحترف العديد من اللهجات الروائية الواقعيّة
بدءًا من تصوير الحرب الأهلية في الوجوه البيضاء ومأساة ما بعد نكبة ال ١٩٤٨
وليس انتهاء
بمرحلة ما بعد الطائف
ومحاولة هروب الشعب من الإحباط الوطني
نحو الجنس والخيانات
في سينالكول.

نبيل مملوك
Profile Image for Dania Badran.
55 reviews4 followers
March 6, 2016
لطالما ابتعدت عن الروايات التي تدخلنا بتفاصيل التعذيب داخل السجون او عن المشاركة بجرائم الحرب الاهلية في لبنان لانها تختزن الما في اعماقي لا اعرف طريقا للتخلص منه ابدا ولكني وجدت نفسي متورطة مع هذه الرواية لا اعرف كيف ستنتهي مني او انتهي منها .. لان الياس خوري مبدع بكل ما للكلمة من معنى فقد استطاع هنا ان ينسج عبر شخصية يالو الغير تقليدي المريضة بسبب ظروفه حياتية والحرب والسجن ،عبر هذه الشخصية اخذنا الياس خوري الى زوايا الحرب الاهلية ببشاعتها والى السجون العربي وادوات التعذيب القاتلة للروح قبل الجسد واخبرنا عن احداث كثيرة عبر هاتين المرحلتين . الرواية محكمة وقد تصل الى الامتياز واكنها آلمتني ففهمت مع هذا الالم كيف تنفصل الروح عن الجسد وكيف نحاول بكل جهد ان نخاطبها علها تعود الينا او ترضى . موجعة هذه الرواية بحقيقتها واتقان تخيلها وروعة سردها .
Profile Image for Heba.
27 reviews31 followers
October 9, 2013
أن الضحك يعيش الى جانب البكاء، و أن التمييز بينهما مسألة بالغة الصعوبة ، لأنهما اختلطا منذ بداية الخليقة . كلاهما مفاجيء و مفارق ، و كلاهما يأتي كي يملأ الفراغ الذي تشعر به الروح .
Profile Image for Arda.
255 reviews159 followers
March 4, 2013
The first part of this book was a bit annoying: Here is our main character Yalo being interrogated, and he tells the interrogator what he is thinking. Then he tells us that he doesn't in fact tell the interrogator what he was thinking. Then he tells us "I said those things," and then says "I didn't actually say those things." This on-again off-again was starting to get on my nerves.

Moreover, a big chunk of the book is sexual in all kinds of ways: Yalo is aroused by the lovers who park their cars next to the building he guards, and his voyeurism of their love-making stimulates all kinds of possibilities for theft, assault, and rape. We know from the get-go that the character is a rapist, but the book would continue to get on my nerves as it includes certain justifiable and excusable rape-scenes. I realized that it's all part of getting into the character's psyche and understanding his mental state of mind, but the inconsistency of narrating what's going on, together with the over-abundance of sexuality and the *GASP! Are you trying to justify rape!!* questioning were preparing me to dismiss this book...

But I kept reading. And I'm glad I kept on reading, because as Yalo tries to unravel his own doings, find his voice and search for "what really happened," "what kind of person does this make him" and "where is he coming from", Elias Khoury, despite some inconsistency, still proves to be a great story-teller.

The writer, together with the alter-egos, multiple personalities and psychosis of Yalo, journeys into the harshness of life in the aftermath of Lebanon's civil war. Deep themes are present in this book, including the inevitability of betrayal and deceit. There are also some religion and traditional inflicted themes that have to do with the perception of sin, obedience, women, and sexuality. Also, the characters go through their personal losses in their difficult battles with reality in symbolic ways. For instance, Yalo's mother is obsessively fearful that she can't see herself in the mirror anymore; his grandfather loses his sense of taste, and the girl he loves, Sherin, would have a broken voice.
قالت انكسر صوتي هنيك بالبلونة، منشان هيك ما بقدر حبك مزبوط، فلم يفهم معنى هذا الكلام. تخيّل آنية فخّارية تسقط على الأرض وتنكسر. لكنه لم يفهم أنه حين صوت المرأة ينكسر، فهذا يعني أن قلبها أصيب ببحّة عميقة لا دواء لها. والقلب المبحوح لا يتسطيع أن يحب

Yalo not only becomes obsessive with the telling of his story, but also that of his surroundings, including his mother, a woman whose crime was that she loved a man who didn't deserve her; his grandfather the "Siryoyo" priest who could not erase sin from earth and battled with his sense of identity; as well as Sherin, the girl he believed he loved, who was surrounded with cowardly men. Yalo keeps re-narrating the story, always giving it a different edge, a different side, some sort of hope for a better ending, but the inevitability of the consequences, and the lack of choice in the matter start to get more difficult as the pages turn; and the last pages start to feel heavier and heavier, which is exactly what good books of literature are made of.

Short summary from Guernica web magazine through Amazon: Yalo is a former sectarian soldier arrested for theft, assault, and rape in the aftermath of Lebanon's brutal civil war. As torturers attack his body and mind to elicit a confession, he creates a series of new narratives, a stream of explanations that simultaneously reinforce and undermine each other by their very number. He justifies, he apologizes, he admits, he denies, and the picture we have of the events recounted becomes more and more distorted and fractured. Yet all this disorientation serves a purpose: the Guardian quotes Khoury as saying that when he started writing, he didn't know what "postmodern" was. "I was trying to express the fragmentation of society," Khoury said. "Beirut's past is not of stability, but of violent change. Everything is open, uncertain. In my fiction, you're not sure if things really happened, only that they're narrated. What's important is the story, not the history."
Profile Image for Jennifer.
10 reviews2 followers
December 9, 2011
Translated from the Arabic by Peter Theroux

Sometimes following an author's path from one book to another pays off. I liked it better than Gate of the Sun and I will seek out more of his work after this.

The word discursive is the perfect way to summarize this book in one word. With a supernatural ability Khoury wends you through a several dramatic almost tragic event that leaves the narrator in captivity with guards who want him to tell one story. Yalo is accused of stalking a woman and hurting her. At first I was frustrated by the story being told then the narrator being told that was not the true story. He thinks it is the story. I thought it was the story. At that point the reader does not know, and is suspended in belief and disbelief at the same time, marvelous. The frame of history mandates knowing which version of the truth is at stake, presently.
Why did the interrogator shout at him, "What is the truth?"
Should he have replied that the truth was love? But how could he talk to the interrogator of love.
Perspective can be love in one, and not the other, a shame. With platonic reminiscences, a friend tells Yalo he was called more beautiful than a girl by a pederast, something the pederast did not tell Yalo himself.

Yalo is actually Daniel George Jal'u, named by his grandfather, man who moved to Al-Qamishli in Syria at age 15. His grandfather moves to Sweden. Identity cards do not reflect reality. To avoid a labyrinth a single thread should run through the story. Creation of idendity and reality is a central theme here.

In Sweeden there are over 30,000 Suryoyo speakers, Yalo's grandfather reverts to his native tongue right before he dies. In Sweden.
There they speak Sryoyo in the streat, and they have Syryoyo radio and television, but that's no good because a language separated from its land dies.
The theme repeats. A prose poetry interlude falls several chapters later in to an strict outline; for example a vague childhood rememberance of blood and a woman and police distills in to what that woman actually did right before the police arrived. In that sense narrative tension, the essence of what keeps the reader reading, repeats, and repeats, and repeats.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Maryam.
63 reviews
October 19, 2022
Okay, I understand that this is an allegory for the Lebanese Civil War and the absurdity of prison and the non-existence of absolute truth etc etc etc but… that doesn’t mean it was executed well. Imagine reading a book that only repeats the same handful of events over and over, completely out of order with no linear time whatsoever, with each retelling adding new details to the story and also CONTRADICTING WHAT WAS ALREADY DESCRIBED. Even if you understand what the point of this format is, you still feel like you’re going crazy reading it. This book is literally the definition of gaslighting😭 The narrator isn’t just unreliable, he’s off the rails. He cannot remember anything and tells lies, believes the lies himself, and then quite literally devolves into two separate personalities narrating the story by the end; you literally have no idea what parts of the book are supposed to be true. He “apologizes” without ever taking accountability/by victimizing himself, then denies ever having committed the crime, then admits it but justifies it, then denies it all over again. 99% (I wish I was exaggerating) of it is extremely graphic depictions of rape through the twisted POV of the serial rapist. The worst part is that the author attempts to paint him in a sympathetic light. I literally could go on and on about the crazy and horrifying details I just… wtf

If you ever pick this up, I guarantee this will be one of the most confusing, disgusting, bizarre books you’ve read.
Profile Image for Heidi Polk Issa.
80 reviews2 followers
July 27, 2013
Yalo tells the story of a young man who has been arrested for a series of criminal activities, including rape, robbery and illegal smuggling. While under guard (and the threat of torture), Yalo is ordered to write a confession detailing his criminal activity and instead makes several attempts to write the story of his life.

This stands as an absolutely extraordinary book and Yalo is an incredible character. His inability to adequately recall and write the story of his life serves as an excellent metaphor for the wider scenarios of internal conflict stemming from the Lebanese civil wars. Khoury also excels in portraying seriously conflicted and multi-faceted characters, perhaps none more conflicted than Yalo himself, a man who can neither be praised nor castigated for his actions and justifications, a man who realizes almost too late the impact that his actions and motivations have for shaping his soul and the path he is destined to take in life…

Truly amazing and heartbreaking piece…
Profile Image for Heather(Gibby).
1,257 reviews21 followers
January 19, 2014
Reading this book is like trying to get out of a maze, you get a bit further each time, but keep ending up back at the beginning. The story mostly takes place from Yalo/Daniel's prison cell and the telling of his life story while being interrogated or writing it down. We got different version of the story with more details, although sometimes contradictory statements. I was hoping reading this would give some feeling for the history and culture of Lebanon/ Beirut, but the story was too focused and did not really do this. IN the end I am not sure what to think of this novel, although it is told from Yalo's point of view, you never really get an understanding of him.
Profile Image for Du.
1,865 reviews13 followers
August 28, 2014
This was a very difficult book to read. It was difficult on a few levels. The text is translated to Engish, for one. The topic is difficult as it involves a prisoner who is tortured because he may have raped someone.

Overall, though it was difficult to put down and I read it in one sitting. I should say, that I read it straight through because the language is so intelligent and thoughtful. While the subject isn't easy to read, I enjoyed the complexity of the writing, and by the style.
Profile Image for Maha.
508 reviews
November 15, 2016
هذه الرواية عمل فني من الدرجة الاولى.
النصف الاول صعب جدا فيالو و هو الشخصية الرئيسية في الرواية يسرد قصته فتتشابك الحكايات مع حكايات الأهل و الأصدقاء و الحرب الأهلية. ثم السجن و التعذيب و عندها نتساءل انستمر ام نتوقف؟ و في النصف الأخير نفهم القصة. يسرد علينا يالو قصته عشرات المرات و في كل مرة نعرف اكثر. لم اشعر بالملل بل بالعكس تصبح الرواية مشوقة.
الرواية ذو بعد فلسفي واضح لكنها واقعية و اظنها تسحق الخمس نجمات كعلامة كاملة في القراءة الثانية.
236 reviews1 follower
January 24, 2011
I made it up to page 112 and realised I had absolulely NO idea what was going on. Something about a beach, and a rape and hiding behind trees and golden hair...I'm starting to think that maybe me and middle eastern literature just don't mix. sigh. must be me, but found this completely incomprehensible.
Profile Image for Olga Kowalska (WielkiBuk).
1,463 reviews2,384 followers
September 11, 2014
What a painful and extremely emotional read! And in a good way. It's about war, PTSD and confusion. Yalo does not know who he is anymore. He's in pain. He does not understand what wrong he had done. The story leaves the reader in kind of disdain for the protagonist, however with a kind of compassion also. A great and very demanding book.
Profile Image for Mihai.
348 reviews
October 23, 2017
Reading this book almost felt like some mild variant of the torture endured by the protagonist throughout its pages. It took me several months to finish it because I would lose interest in the story, which is so disjointed and neurotic that trying to follow it is a pain. Eventually I decided to make a concerted effort and bring Yalo across the finish line - which I did, but am still unable to express what it is about in any coherent description. The bad translation certainly did not help matters, as it threw the structure and syntax out of whack. And the alternating of first and third persons as narrating voices in the second half of the book is disorienting, as if trying to make sense of protagonist's thoughts wasn't confusing enough. I peg this one on the author though.

Since the first third of the book is basically Yalo trying to make sense of how he ended up arrested and interrogated, the fragmentary nature of his recollections works against 'hooking' the reader from the very beginning. I really had no idea what was going on until well past the point where most people would peace out. I did consider giving up altogether, but in the end decided to slog it out because among all the hallucinatory introspection and struggle to establish the protagonist's identity there are hidden gems of Lebanese culture, specifically of the Syrian community in Beirut.

It was only because of these little bits that I kept going; as the pages passed, I came to empathize more with the main character and the revelation that he was essentially an outsider in his own community. However, I have yet to fully comprehend his motivations, or what in fact his actions were. Because the novel is written entirely from Yalo's perspective, there his no way to understand what compels any of the other characters to act the way they do, including the woman who denounces him or his interrogators.

Past the halfway point, the narrative becomes nauseating since it keeps going in circles between Yalo's childhood and his descent into a life of crime that culminates with being arrested and accused of robbery, rape, weapons trafficking and subversion. The reader cannot establish if Yalo is guilty or innocent since it is impossible for Yalo himself to sort out his memories or establish his identity, and while this is obviously one of the main points the author is looking to make, it ends up backfiring because it keeps the reader confused throughout the entire story. I can see how Yalo would appeal to Middle Eastern audiences, but unfortunately its international relevance is minimal.

It appears that I am on some sort of unlucky streak with Arab authors, as Elias Khoury is the second writer from that culture (Naguib Mahfouz being first) whose acclaimed work I simply could not enjoy. Maybe third time will be the charm.
Profile Image for Ghada.
106 reviews4 followers
February 25, 2023
ثمة روايات تنبش بالذاكرة لتستدعي مزيج من المشاعر التي تظن انها اندثرت، فتطفو مجددا الى السطح لتستعيد ذكريات مرحلة تركت أثرها الكبير داخلك. بروايته يالو يتلاعب الياس خوري بمشاعر كل من عاصر الحرب الأهلية اللبنانية وذاق مرارة الفقد والتعذيب والتهجير و السجن وما تلى ذلك من أثر في النفوس لا زال الكثيرين يعانون منه حتى بعد مرور أعوام طويلة على تلك الحرب اللعينة وكما نقول دائما عند ذكرها "تنذكر وما تنعاد"
من خلال سرد قصة حياة يالو الذي يُطلب منه ان يكتبها في السجن بعد القبض عليه عند نهاية الحرب بتهمة الاغتصاب، يروي لنا الياس خوري سردية متشعبة من قصص وحكايا الحروب التي مرت على سوريا ولبنان، ابتداء من ابادة السريان في عين ورد شمال سوريا حتى الحرب الأهلية اللبنانية بكل بشاعتها وتجاوزاتها الي تخطت المعقول والمقبول. يالو السرياني السوري اللبناني، الطفل الذي لم يعرف ابوه، المراهق الذي رباه جده الكاهن، المليشياوي، التائب، المغتصب، العاشق، المثقف، المشرد، السجين، يكتب اعترافاته ثم يمحيها ثم يكتبها مجددا حتى ينال رضى المحقق الظالم.
تحتار في تصنيف هذه الرواية، هل هي رواية حرب تؤرخ لتلك المرحلة القاتمة من تاريخ لبنان على لسان من شارك فيها وعايشها وهي ثيمة تتكرر في روايات الياس خوري او رواية سجن يعري فيها الكاتب اساليب التحقيق اللاإنسانية التي يتعرض لها المساجين في معظم السجون العربية. لا شك بأن الاطالة وتكرار بعض الاحداث التي قد تدفع القارىء أحيانا الى الملل ما هو الا اسلوب اعتمده الكاتب لينقل لنا كل العصف والتشتت والضياع الذي كان يدور في ذهن يالو وهو يروي قصته ثم يعيد كتابتها مرارا وتكرارا.
من الرواية:
"ان اللبنانيين نبشوا في هذه الحرب تاريخ حروبهم الماضية من أجل ان يبرروا جنونهم الذي يجعل الحكي معهم مستحيلا."

"أوكد لك يا سيدي القاضي أنني صرت إنسانا آخر، أعرف قصتي لأنني كتبتها وسوف أكتبها من جديد إذا أردتم ولكنني أشعر وأنا في السجن أنه لم يعد لي علاقة بالماضي... لم أتعلم من الماضي سوى الحب .. نعم يا سيدي، لقد بدأ يالو حياته عندما اكتشف الحب لكن هذا الحب أيضا كان سبب موته، يعني يالو وقع عندما وقف، وتشرشح عندما أصبح بني آدم"

"قالت انكسر صوتي هنيك ببلونة، منشان هيك ما بقدر حبك مزبوط، فلم يفهم معنى هذا الكلام. تخيّل آنية فخّارية تسقط على الأرض وتنكسر. لكنه لم يفهم أنه حين صوت المرأة ينكسر، فهذا يعني أن قلبها أصيب ببحّة عميقة لا دواء لها. والقلب المبحوح لا يتسطيع أن يحب"
Profile Image for Aseel Sa'Di.
96 reviews3 followers
September 3, 2018
رواية يالو
للكاتب اللبناني الياس خوري
عدد صفحات الرواية 380 صفحة عن دار الادب

ملاحظة الرواية لا تصلح لصغار السن

تحكي الرواية قصة شاب لبناني او يمكن تصله سوي اسمه يابو وكان اسمه برو بس بالاصل هو دانيال

تمر سنين حياته بين حلم امه وجده بان يكمل دراسته ويصبح خوري وبسن حبه للخط العربي وتعشيق الخشب المزخرف

وتختفي الاحلام ببدء الحرب الاهليه اللبنانية وذهاب يالو للحرب مثل اغلب الشباب ثم هجرته لفرنسى وعودته ليعمل حارس عند احد الاغنياء

وحين يبدأ الحراسة يكتشف عالم الليل المخفي خلف الاشجار داخل السيارات لتخفي العشق محرم

الرواية بنظري لا قصة جميلة ولا هدف لا تكلم بالحرب الاهلية ولا تكلم بهجرة الشباب واخلامهم ولا تكلم عن تعذيب السجون

جمع من كل قطر اغنية او جزء من اغنيه وغناها

اسلوب الكاتب ممتع لكن القصة وجدتها محرد صف كلام، بالغ الكاتب بوصف بعض المواقف المخلة بالحياء دون هدف او سبب

برأيي الخاص رواية بدون فائدة ولا حتى متعة
لا انصح بها ابدا
Profile Image for Ryan Houck.
300 reviews1 follower
April 19, 2018
No description prepared me for this tale. The ending felt chilling and powerful. I found the book on the IB list, and I cannot quite imagine teaching this book. Misogyny, humor, violence, and above all, deep concern with how telling stories and torture create a feedback loop. Torture increases wild story telling and wild storytelling increases the interrogator's desire to torture.
It reminds me of the Stanford Prison Experiment. People assume wild and strange roles under stress. But this book does much much more, because it digs deep into the religion, history, and culture of Beirut, Kurdistan, Lebanon, and Syria.
Profile Image for Layla.
19 reviews6 followers
May 20, 2021
شخصية مركبة تحمل تيارات ثقافية ودينية متعددة. ترسم لنا الرواية شخصية يالو وعائلته التي حمّلته هذا التنوع، وتكشف لنا قليلا بعد قليل الحيثيات التي أدت الى تاريخ هذه العائلة المليئة بالتعقيدات والاسرار المكنونة.
هذه الشخصية ذات الخلفية المعقدة، تجد نفسها وسط حرب لبنان الاهلية، فإذ بها تضيّع بوصلة الضمير ، حيث أنه لم يتبين ليالو باطل الأمور التي قام بها (السرقة، والاغتصاب، والانضمام الى الميليشيات المسلحة إلخ.) الا بعد ان عُذِب وزج بالسجن الانفرادي ليكتب قصة حياته. عندها،تصبح الكتابة (الكلمة) خلاصه الوحيد، وبها تتضح أمور كثيرة كانت مخبئة داخله وتصبح حياته المكومة على الورق كل ما يملك لتحرره.
Profile Image for Afnan.
94 reviews21 followers
June 30, 2018
محاولة فاشلة في الأدب الأيروتيكي، لم أستطع اتمام قراءة الرواية بسبب الاشمئزاز الذي سببته لي، كأن الشخصيات مصابة بالمازوخية والسادية والعديد من اضطرابات الشخصية، وهذا بخلاف الحوارات العامية التي تغطي معظم المحتوى، للأسف خاب أملي كثيرًا ولم أظن المحتوى بهذا المستوى.
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